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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Slow Cooker Soups – Ravenwood Soup, Lentil Soup

Slow Cooker Soups – Ravenwood Soup, Lentil Soup

One of my favorite parts of winter, especially since I hate cold weather, is SOUP! I have had the good fortune already this ‘winter’ (although winter only officially started a couple of days ago, anytime the weather is hovering around freezing it’s ‘winter’) to make some big pots of soup.

Most recently, I made a soup that my mother introduced me to. I believe she was introduced to it at a work related retreat at a nearby hunting lodge. No, my mother is not a hunter, not does she work for a company who is in any way related to hunting. However, where we live that is one of the choices of meeting locations – a hunting lodge.  Turns out, they made a delicious soup! The name of the lodge is Ravenwood Lodge; so the soup is Ravenwood soup.

I love sharing food with friends and family, so thought that the week before Christmas would be a great time to take Ravenwood soup to the office to share. As I was assembling the ingredients on the counter the night before, The Hubs said, “Oh, it looks like someone has been very good.” I turned to see the gleam in his eye, and wasn’t sure I had it in me to tell him the truth. I did. “Well, this is for the girls at the office.” That gleam turned to sadness very quickly. “I do have enough to make enough for home, too – if you want,” I threw in quickly. The gleam returned, although not quite as brightly. He knew who had been really good and it obviously wasn’t him!

The girls at work were very happy to have some hot soup to eat for lunch on the first big icy day of the season. That evening the pot (slow cooker) I had on at home was looked at with 2 little upturned, turned up noses. Well, at least one upturned, two turned up noses! Once they saw how delicious the soup was they gobbled it up. They were also pleased to know there would be enough for lunch the next day. My mother was also quite pleased when I took her a little bowl for her lunch the next day…

The other soup that I made (last week) was a lentil soup. The noses were turned up at this one, too. Not really sure what lentils were the girls were skeptical at best. They decided that it was much better than they thought it would be, although Daughter Number Three informed me there was too much Thyme in the soup. As I started to agree, Daughter Number Four, always quick to spare hurt feelings informed her sister that all of the best foods take too much time. My husband agreed that she was absolutely correct. He and I gave reassuring glances to Daughter Number Three, who gave us a knowing smile.

I made both soups in the slow cooker. They both worked beautifully being cooked that way.

Ravenwood Soup

  • 3 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • 3 cans yellow corn
  • 3 cans red kidney beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Ro-tel
  • 2 pounds Velveeta cheese

Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Add the onion to the ground beef during browning or sauté in the same skillet after the beef is browned. Add all ingredients, including juices of canned goods into the slow cooker – EXCEPT the Velveeta. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, adding the cheese about 30 minutes before serving. Cook on low for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and soup is hot. Serve with tortilla chips. Optional garnish: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, green onion

 

Lentil Soup

  • ¾ cup lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and coined
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • ½ cup red wine (or water)
  • ½ cup water (or more, see above)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Add all ingredients into crock of slow cooker. Stir gently. Cook on low for 6-8 hours until lentils are soft. Turn slow cooker lid to the side for about 30 minutes to thicken broth, if desired. Serve with crusty French bread.

 

Both of these slow cooker soups are hearty, to warm you and yours on a cold day. The Ravenwood soup is terrific to take to a gathering, because it makes so much. It really is great for sharing! You might even want to print off a few copies of the recipe. I always get asked for it when I share this hearty soup.

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in recipe

 

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Spinach Pasta Bake – Throwing Food Together

Spinach Pasta Bake – Throwing Food Together

In my marriage, one of the strongest connections The Hubs and I have is to food. It can also be one of our biggest disconnects. We both love food and love trying new things, however, we eat and cook (especially cook) very differently.

One of the biggest disconnects is how we view cooking. When The Hubs cooks, he likes to peruse recipe books or recipes online and then goes to the grocery store for ingredients. He then uses most of the skillets and saucepans, utensils, and bakeware that we own to cook the dish. The dish will most likely contain butter and cream; always delicious, rarely healthy. I like to plan ahead, but because of my job that doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have to just throw together what I have on hand. This ends one of two ways in the household: they love it or they hate it.

Earlier this week I knew I was going to have to throw something together for dinner. As I was putting things in a casserole dish The Hubs started walking into the kitchen. “I’m not sure you want to see what I’m doing”, I said casually. He stopped walking and then boldly took a few more steps so he could look in the dish. “I’m not sure I should have”, he muttered as he walked back out of the kitchen.

A half an hour later dinner was on the table. The girls and The Hubs were glancing from their plates to the other faces and back to the plates. Finally, Daughter Number Four took a bite. Then she took another bite. (whew) At least someone was going to eat. That encouraged Daughter Number Three and The Hubs to also try the dish. They all cleaned their plates, and Daughter Number Three took a little bit more. The only comment from The Hubs was that he wasn’t sure it even needed “the meat”. Really? He’s the only reason I put “the meat” in it! I noticed yesterday evening when I got home from work that the large container of leftovers had been completely devoured!

Here is the creation that I pulled out of the cabinets and fridge, threw together, and served to the family for dinner (and apparently the next day’s lunch)…

Spinach Pasta Bake

  • 1 package Rigatoni, cooked
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 package chicken sausage, fully cooked (I like Aidells), cut in coins
  • ½ jar spaghetti sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer sausage, spinach, cottage cheese, pasta, and spaghetti sauce in dish. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir gently, recover, and bake for 15 more minutes until hot through. Serve with Italian bread.

That was it. That was the entire dish! It was easy, inexpensive, relatively healthy, and yummy. You can’t ask for more than that!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in recipe

 

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Wholesome Nut & Grain Pancakes

Wholesome Nut & Grain Pancakes

I am a carboholic. Not new news. Don’t praise me for coming to terms with it. I’ve known this for over thirty years now. I love bread, pasta, rice, grains, and most things made with grains. That is probably why ‘breakfast food’ is my absolute favorite. When I say breakfast food I do not mean bacon, sausage, and eggs. I mean pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, blintzes, bagels, English muffins, scones, oatmeal, cold cereal, farina, and mush – to name a few. I could (and have) eat these foods morning, noon, and night.

(sigh) That is why I am constantly on the lookout for a healthier version of these dishes. Probably fifteen years ago I came across a cookbook that contains Low-fat recipes. The book by Dean Ornish, Everyday Cooking has a Wholesome Pancakes recipe in it that I come back to from time to time. It has oatmeal and whole wheat flour in it, so it is definitely a little more dense than, say, a buttermilk pancake. I love them. Several weeks ago I was at a restaurant whose name actually has the word ‘pancakes’ in it! Yes, IHOP. I tried the ‘Harvest Nut and Grain’ pancakes and it was love at first bite. (overdone?) They were reminiscent of the Ornish pancake, with a little more substance. I, of course, wanted to do my best to replicate these at home.

My first try was a success. I altered the Wholesome Pancake recipe by adding some chopped walnuts and pecans. The girls liked them, too.

A short while later (2 or 3 days) I was hungry for pancakes again. So I whipped up the Wholesome Nut & Grain pancakes, and added a new twist; pureed spinach. I worried that the girls would NOT want anything to do with them. To my surprise the girls liked them. They even asked for seconds! So, I found a healthy way to get greens and nuts into the girls without feeling bad about eating pancakes! Win-win!

Wholesome Nut & Grain Pancakes

  • ½ cup rolled oats (quick are fine, not instant)
  • 2 ½ cups almond milk (soy or nonfat if preferred)
  • ½ cup baby spinach
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 egg whites (or liquid egg substitute equivalent), beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup walnuts and pecans, chopped

Preheat an electric griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. In a blender combine ½ cup milk with spinach and puree. In a medium bowl, combine oats with spinach mixture and remaining milk. Stir gently and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until well blended. Add egg whites and vanilla to oat mixture; stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir until all ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in nuts. Do not over mix. When griddle is hot, pour pancake mixture, using ¼ cup per pancake. When bubbles on top of pancake begin to pop, flip pancake over. Cook until both sides are browned.

I have several people in my family who do not like syrup on their pancakes (or waffles, French toast). Some use peanut butter, some use powdered sugar, some eat with cut up fruit. That is one of the best parts of pancakes, is the versatility! If I make extra, I can wrap them in foil or plastic wrap (I know about the environment!) and have a great easy breakfast (or lunch) for the following day.

I hope you enjoy these morsels and feel compelled to try them or experiment with your own healthy options.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in recipe

 

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What a turkey! – and slow cooker Kugel

What a turkey! – and slow cooker Kugel

As I did not make a turkey for Thanksgiving (thanks Daughter Number One) I missed having the copious amount of leftover turkey to eat following Thanksgiving day.

So, I made a turkey the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Nothing special about the turkey – I just roasted it in the oven. Oh, but the house smelled so amazing! I didn’t feel the need to do up all of the side dishes, since I had done that on Thanksgiving. I wracked my brain trying to decide what to make with the 15 pound turkey in my oven. Finally, it hit me. I was going to make Kugel – Noodle Kugel. In fact, I made slow cooker kugel.

Since Hanukkah started on Thanksgiving this year I thought that making this traditional Jewish food would be a great idea. No, we are not Jewish but I try to introduce other heritages, cultures, and religions to the girls. I even enlisted the two youngest in helping me make the kugel. It was great! I was so glad I chose to make the kugel. The girls really liked and so did The Hubs. One of the girls thought there were too many raisins in it, but otherwise success.

I found this recipe at http://dinnerisacrock.com/2010/09/24/crock-pot-noodle-kugel/  and made a few little changes to it.

Slow Cooker Noodle Kugel

  • 1 8-ounce package yolk-free broad egg noodles (NoYolks)
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins + ¼ cup water

In a glass bowl or measuring cup combine water and raisins. Microwave for 30-45 seconds until warm. Let sit until raisins are soft. Spray the crock of slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Mix all ingredients except noodles in crock pot until smooth. Fold noodles into mixture gently. Cook on low for 4 hours. Halfway through, gently stir to ensure the noodles are coated. For last 15 minutes, position lid sideways.

It seems that this was such a hit we may have to make it again! I think it would be a fantastic addition to a brunch!

Apparently the rest of the family was glad I made the turkey, too. We have had meals from the turkey all week! I made a homemade turkey soup with dumplings to warm the hands for The Hubs and girls Tuesday, since they decorated the outside of the house with Christmas lights and our big wreath. I thought that it must have been a combination of the seasonal excitement, the nip in the air, and the nostalgia but I thought it was the best soup I have ever made! I allowed myself two large bowls! The little girls liked it, especially the dumplings. The Hubs didn’t get to eat with us when we ate because he was finishing up a few touches outside. When he came in to have a bowl he told me that it was delicious…probably the best I’ve made. The girls even asked for it for lunch the next day! The Hubs has been making turkey salad for sandwiches, too. Imagine my surprise when Daughter Number Four asked if I wasn’t going to make gravy with mashed potatoes to go with the end of our turkey! She doesn’t even like mashed potatoes! It seems that the turkey hit the spot with everyone. I might have to throw a turkey in the oven every 3 months! I wonder if they would get tired of turkey if we had it that often…

I would love to know if anyone else makes turkey at times other than ‘the holidays’ or what some favorite holiday food traditions are in your house! We all have our own favorite foods of the season…which morsels do you look forward to?

 

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in recipe

 

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Slow Cooker Thanksgiving ~ 2013

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving ~ 2013

Last year I posted three days of the journey that was our Thanksgiving feast. This year, we had an actual journey on Thanksgiving day. We travelled the roughly 150 miles to Daughter Number One’s apartment to share Thanksgiving dinner with her, and her boyfriend.

The Hubs and I told her that she would only have to be in charge of roasting the turkey and making pumpkin pie. We would bring the rest. I know this sounds like an extreme offering, but under the circumstances it was all for the best. This would be her first turkey, and she was really nervous about it. She kept having visions of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, where the turkey literally dissolves in a puff of dryness. Having raised her, we also knew some previous cooking and baking episodes she had had, and wanted to be able to enjoy the food… she’ll read this post, so I’m not talking behind her back. I’m quite sure she remembers burning Velveeta in the microwave (I didn’t know it could turn black) and starting a small fire in the microwave because she didn’t know not to put aluminum foil in it. There are more, but we’ll save those for another day! (Love you)

Another great thing we decided is that since I have been doing so much slow cooker creating that I would do a slow cooker Thanksgiving with the side dishes. I asked my girls what they thought were absolutes when it came to Thanksgiving sides. The answers were fairly similar: Green Bean Supreme, Stuffing (or Dressing since I don’t put it in the bird), Mashed Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes (even though most of the girls don’t like them). They also put in their requests for the bread…cornmeal rolls; my dad’s recipe.

With the menu set, I spent all day Wednesday baking bread and pies. Since D1 was making the pumpkin that meant I only had to make pecan and Raisin Sour Cream, the memoriam to my father-in-law. I also had to bake cornmeal rolls, and I chose to make a second dinner roll, just in case. I chose a great recipe for a light wheat roll. On Thursday morning I got up and put the stuffing together first thing. I was pretty sure it would take the longest. Then I put together the Green Bean Supreme (not just another green bean casserole), the sweet potatoes, corn casserole, and finally came the mashed potatoes. I decided that I would use the slow cooker to keep the cooked mashed potatoes warm, rather than cook them in it. I used a liner for the mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn. For the mashed potatoes, I chose to put water in the slow cooker before adding the liner. This kept the potatoes from getting dry on the edges. I have my boss to thank for that great idea!

Although I used my own Green Bean Supreme recipe, and just made it in the slow cooker on low, I did come up with some new recipes for the stuffing, corn, and sweet potatoes using the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Stuffing

  • 12 cups toasted bread, cut into 1/2” to 1” pieces (I used white, wheat, and sourdough)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sage, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 4 cups chicken broth (I used 2 cups vegetable broth, 2 cups chicken broth)
  • 1/3 cup roasted pecans or walnuts

In the bottom of slow cooker insert, make a ring with aluminum foil, in the crease and about two inches up the side. Spray the insert and foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in a small glass bowl or measuring cup. Add spices to the butter and mix. Pour the bread into the buttered slow cooker. Add onions. Pour the melted butter mixture over the bread and onions and toss to coat. Pour the broth over the bread mixture and toss so that all of the bread is coated. Cook on low for 4 – 5 hours. Toss in nuts and turn lid to crisp top for 15-30 minutes.

Corn Casserole

  • 2 cans whole kernel corn
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 1 – 8 ounce cream cheese
  • ½ cup butter

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker crock insert. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. You may need to stir once the cream cheese and butter have melted.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

  • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1” pieces
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows

Spray the slow cooker crock insert with nonstick cooking spray. Melt butter in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Add sugar and stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add sweet potatoes to slow cooker and pour sugar mixture over the top. Cook on low for 3-5 hours, until potatoes are soft. Remove lid and add marshmallows to the top of the sweet potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes with the top off, until marshmallows are melty and crisp.

We used 5 slow cookers to take our cooked side dishes to our daughter’s place for Thanksgiving. I asked all of the attendees for their feedback on the dishes. I couldn’t get any negative feedback…even though I tried. The two things I will change or read up on are the way the Green Beans and Corn both seemed to separate. I’m not sure if it was a travel related issue (slow cookers off and traveling for 1 and a half hours) or a cooking issue. I will figure it out before the next time I take an entire meal on a journey!

Now, to give credit where credit is due: The turkey turned out absolutely perfect! Daughter Number One did a great job! Her fears (and ours) were all for naught…

I must apologize for a big GOOF on my part, though: pictures. I was so busy cooking and trying to make everything work in slow cookers, cook at the right speed, make room for everything in my car, and the overall excitement…I did not get one single picture of my slow cooker Thanksgiving. I did get picture of my pies and wheat rolls, though.

rolls

Hoping your Thanksgiving feast was as amazing as ours!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in recipe

 

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